“Why can’t we understand what Allahabad High Court has decided in regard to idol immersion in rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, Saryu, Kolar and southern northern lakes of Bangalore is logically based on several tests conducted by various toxicology depts., BHU, AU, University of Hinguchix, Japan, independent river scientists. This is my attempt to save the lifeline of Indian plains, environment and so, the life of people who dies just because of contamination which has now enter in our food chain. It is a calamity and not a joke. Remember Ganges is now on 3rd position of most polluted water bodies in world.
Below is a collective and organized reports of toxicity
conducted in various rivers.
India is a rich cultural country in which diverse cultural and religious festivals are organized. Idol is an image of a god which is used as an object of worship.
After worshipped,these idols are immersed into water bodies. Idols are constructed by plaster of paris, clay, cloths, small iron rods, bamboo and decorated with different paints such as varnish, water colors etc. which can lead to significant alteration in the water quality after immersion.
Paints which are used to color these idols contains various heavy metals such as Mercury, Cadmium,Arsenic,Zinc,Chromiumand Lead.
Particularly, red, blue, orange and green colours contain mercury, zinc oxide, chromium and lead, which are potent carcinogens. Two heavy metals such as Lead and Chromium also add in the water bodies through Sindoor (a traditional red colored cosmetic powder, usually worn by married women and often used in the festivals). The floating materials released through idol in the river and lake after decomposition result in eutrophication, increase in acidity and heavy metal concentration.
Heavy metal pollution caused by idol immersion can damage the ecosystem as it kills fishes, amphibians, damages plants, blocks the natural flow of the water, causing stagnation.
The effects of idol immersion on various water bodies of India like Bhoj Wetlands, Budha Balanga river, Ganges river, Hussainsagar lake, Kolar river, Saryu river, Tapi river, Chhatri lake, north and west lakes of Bangalore and Yamuna river have been observed so far.
Investigations were carried out to find out the effects of immersion of idols on water quality by collecting and analyzing the water samples from the immersion sites of the rivers. The samplings were done before the immersion, on the day of immersion and after the event and several parameters like Temperature, pH, Dissolved Oxygen, BOD, Dissolved CO2, Conductivity, Salinity, Alkalinity, TDS, Total Hardness, Chlorides etc. are estimated. Most of the studies found horrible changes in the water quality parameters during and after immersions. Central Pollution Control Board has formulated guidelines on the practice of idol immersion in water bodies, which should be followed for controlling pollution.
[Figure 2: Durga Worshipped Idol is intact even after10 days of immersion rituals]
1. INTRODUCTION :
In India, lots of idols are worshipped with all rituals in different time in a year. The time span of these kinds of festivals may vary from one and half day to five days, seven days or ten days. After worshipped, these idols are immersed (Figure 1, 2) into water bodies. Among the significant Indian festivals, some important examples are Durga puja, Jagadhatri puja, Laxmi puja, Tazia, Ganesh puja etc. In which the incidences of idol immersions can be observed. Thousands of Ganesh and Durga idols of various sizes reaching heights upto 20 to 40 feet are immersed every year in different water bodies.
[Figure 5: A Tazia is getting ready to make it settle on various Imam Chowks for 10 days. On Ashoora, the Muharram 10th is remembered as a day of Great Martyrdoms of Imam Hussain and his whole family of 72 divine souls. Ashura is observed with sense of great lose, in the evening Tazia, as you can see it is made of thin sticks of green bamboo, papers and wheat based glue.]
These idols are made by plaster of paris, clay, cloths, small iron rods, bamboo and decorated with different paints such as varnish, water colors etc..
Plaster of Paris (POP), which is cheaper and lighter, has become the favoured material to mould these idols. POP contains chemicals such as phosphorus, gypsum, sulphur, and magnesium. These idols are decorated with plastic and thermocols. Out of the all materials used in making the idol, thermocol and plastic is non bio-degradable, hence are toxic.
Most importantly, paints which are used to colour these idols contains various heavy metals such as Mercury, Cadmium, Arsenic, Zinc, Chromium and lead. Particularly, red, blue, orange and green colours contain mercury, zinc oxide, chromium and lead, which are potent carcinogens .
Two heavy metals such as Lead and Chromium also add in the water bodies through Sindoor (a traditional red or orange-red colored cosmetic powder from India, usually worn by married women along the parting of their hair, often used in the festivals, especially in Durga Puja). Lead and Chromium are very toxic even in very small quantity for human being through the process known as Bio accumulation and Bio magnifications.
Through food chains, these heavy metals can enter into the living systems (may be directly incorporated through the digestive tract due to the consumption of contaminated water or food, or through non-dietary routes across permeable membranes such as gills).
Immersion of these idols poisons the waters of lakes, rivers and the sea by increasing acidity and the content of heavy metals. Heavy metal pollution caused by idol immersion can damage the ecosystem as it kills fishes, damages plants, blocks the natural flow of the water, causing stagnation. It damages health of human beings also by polluting drinking water sources, causing breathing problems, blood and skin diseases . When these idols are immersed in the water, these constituting components lead to significant alteration in the water quality. The floating materials released through idol in the river and lake after decomposition result in eutrophication of the river, lake etc. . Nondegradable metals and organic pollutants tend to accumulate in various vital organs of fishes and lead to long term toxic effects. They also induce structural and functional abnormalities in different organs of fishes and humans . However, amidst the celebrations, people tend to forget the ill effects of the practice. The most serious impact of idol immersion is on the environment. It disturbs the ecological balance by polluting water and adversely affecting the flora and fauna.
The requirement of water is in all lives, from micro organisms to man, is a serious problem today because all water resources have been reached to a point of crisis due to unplanned urbanization and industrialization. But nowadays, idol immersion is another significant cause of water pollution. Later, in this review, the effects of idol immersion on various water bodies of India like Bhoj wetlan Budhabalanga river, Ganges, Hussainsagar lake, Kolar river, Sarayu river, Tatpi river. Marine and fresh water bodies, Chhatri lake, north and west lakes of Bangalore and Yamuna river are highlighted.
2. COMPOSITION AND INGREDIENTS OF PAINTS:
Paint is any liquid liquefiable, or mastic composition that, after application to a substrate in a thin layer, converts to a solid film. It is most commonly used to protect color or provide texture to objects. After detailing work over the prepared idol is sent for painting process.
In its most basic form, paint consists of color (the pigment) and the glue in which the pigment is suspended (the binder). Many paints also contain ingredients that add texture and bulk(fillers), a thinner (the solvent) and other additives, such as biocides and drying catalysts.
Pigments: Safer alternatives to the toxic compounds and heavy metals used to color conventional paint include natural pigments derived from plants, insects, iron oxides and minerals. These are usually in powder form.
Binders: Binders keep paint glued to a surface. The acrylic and vinyl binders in commercial paints are derived from the by-products of refining crude oil. The binders in natural paints rely instead on materials such as starch (from flour), casein (the protein in milk) and linseed oil (from pressed flax seeds).
Fillers: Fillers create texture and add bulk to paint. Common fillers include whiting (powdered chalk), talcum, limestone, silica and marble. Clay is a popular filler to pair with flour, because it reinforces the binding ability of starch, and it’s abundant and potentially free if you have clay soil.
Solvents: Solvents, or thinners, help achieve a workable consistency. The solvents in commercial paints are usuall made from organic materials, but they will evaporate or “outgas,” causing that new paint smell. The outgassing of these volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision and fatigue, especially in areas that are not well ventilated. The hazards are significantly worse for people who paint regularly. Natural solvents such as citrus thinners and natural turpentine are preferable, but they can still emit low levels of VOCs.
Additives: Commercial paint manufacturers frequently include several additives in their products, but they aren’t required to list them on the can. Additives include plasticizers, foaming and anti foaming agents, driers, biocides that inhibit the growth of mold, and ingredients that improve water resistance or opacity. Figure 3 shows the half made idols and 4 shows a painter is painting an idol:
3. ADVERSE EFFECTS OF HEAVY METALS USED IN PAINTS:
When Idol immersed in water bodies then lots of paints which are used making of idol, those paints are also add into water bodies. These paints do not dissolve easily in the water bodies. Also these paints are contains of various heavy metals such as Mercury, Lead, Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium and Zinc etc.
Through food chain these heavy metals get into human bodies. These heavy metals have lots of adverse effect on human bodies. Here are some effects of some heavy metals are mentioned below.
Mercury (Hg): Mercury pollution can be a serious health threat, especially for children and pregnant women. Humans risk ingesting dangerous levels of mercury when they eat contaminated fish. Since mercury is odourless, invisible and accumulates in the meat of the fish, it is not easy to detect and can’t be avoided by trimming off the skin or other parts. Even in low doses, mercury may affect a child’s development, delaying walking and talking, shortening attention span and causing learning disabilities. Less frequent, high dose prenatal and infant exposures to mercury can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness. In adults, mercury poisoning can adversely affect fertility and blood pressure regulation and can cause memory loss, tremors, vision loss and numbness of the fingers and toes. A growing body of evidence suggests that exposure to mercury may also lead to heart disease .
Cadmium (Cd): A by-product of zinc production is Cadmium. Cadmium is primarily toxic to the kidney; especially to the proximal tubular cells are the main sites of accumulation. Cadmium can also cause bone demineralization, either through direct bone damage or indirectly as a result of renal dysfunction. Cadmium is primarily toxic to the kidney, especially to the proximal tubular cells, the main site of accumulation. Drinking water with very high cadmium levels severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhoea, and sometimes death. Eating lower levels of cadmium over a long period of time can lead to a build-up of cadmium in the kidneys. If the levels reach a high enough level, the cadmium in the kidney will cause kidney damage, and also causes bones to become fragile and break easily.
4. EFFECTS OF IDOL IMMERSION ON THE WATER QUALITY OF INDIAN RIVERS AND LAKES:
Water pollution occurs due to the discharge of municipal sewage both domestic and industrial without any treatment which brings considerable changes in the river water quality in addition to many religious activities now became a threat to the ecosystem [20,21].
Traditionally, idol immersion activities are going on in our country. After idol immersion, materials which are used in idol making that do not dissolve easily in water, thereby reducing the oxygen level and psycho chemical characters are become changed in the water bodies. The changes in the water quality parameters in the major water bodies in India due to idol immersion.
(Author is an Export Entrepreneur, Journalist, Engineer and Social Activist for Cruelty Against Animals!
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